It was the night before “the Day”.. the day I was going to start something I had always wanted to do – my fully solo 20 days trip to places I had never before even considered going to, let alone planning to go to. I have always loved and chosen the ocean & the beaches over the mountains. In fact, I have always proudly called myself ‘water-baby’. But when it finally came to taking that much-needed and anticipated plunge and following my passion and travel for indefinite time period, I chose the mountains.
After day-dreaming about a solo trip and undergoing unbelievably crazy internet research about travelling experiences of people from around the world for days I’ve lost count of, I finally, for no significant reason, chose SHILLONG as the starting point of my journey. Believe me, there was no specific/special reason for the choice. I was so insatiably and madly into this whole idea of travelling to random places and finding my way along the way on my own, not planning and knowing anything at all even about the very next step to take on unknown lands, that it’s not funny. I have consistently been into this idea as if I was in a deep state of slumber from a long time and the sleep had just gotten more prominent and deep during the three months prior to the actual materialisation of the dream I was seeing during this sleep.
After innumerable “inspiration sessions” outside and inside the office building, on a variety of chat windows while sitting right next to each other at work, in the lift, in loo and on breaks while having omelette and chai, Chandni Chadha, my dear dear friend helped me kick-start the realisation of my dream by giving me live lessons on how to create a user account on Indian Railways website and hence book a train ticket(Yes, I did not know how to book a train ticket. Urgh.. kinda embarrassing I know!!). I still remember Chandni telling me time and again like a saviour saint-soldier from the good old books, “There’s a first time for everything, crazy woman. Don’t you dare worry. I’ll help you materialise your dream. Let’s start it by booking a train ticket for you. You better stop over-analysing and look for the ticket availability, as it’s always better to book a ticket at least two months in advance.” And so I booked my first ever train ticket on my own(well I know not really) from a freshly created IRCTC user account. Before getting a ticket booked, I had had long discussions and conversations with a few friends(brain-storming sessions is what my little brain calls them), including Pritamjit, who belonged to Shillong. We talked incessantly about the weather, the people, the food, the places, the culture, what to expect and what not of Shillong. I made a gorgeous mental picture of Shillong in my mind which later turned out to be quite different (but not even an ounce lesser beautiful) when I actually put my feet on the land of Shillong.
Finally the night before the scheduled day of my journey was here. I remember, how I had made a long list of things to do and things to take along. I decided not to sleep that night. I kept talking to friends & listened to music almost the whole night and then finally began the packing part a few hours before leaving my place for the railway station. Urgh.. I eventually realised that I should have started packing a couple of more hours prior to when I actually started doing it(turned out to be my very first ‘travelling’ lesson). I was late. I left home late and reached the station exactly on my train’s departure time. A friend, Vikas came over at the station to wish me good luck and wave good bye. He helped me with the station chores, board the train right on time and hence saved me from the station-confusion-syndrome. I wish railway stations were more like the Delhi metro stations – more clarity and hence lesser confusion. We wanted to click a selfie before the departure to keep with ourselves as a memoir of a kind. But as I was already late, we couldn’t make it. We hurriedly looked for my berth in the train, settled all my luggage when found and waved adios to each other. The train slowly started to move right after.